Al Dancer lived up to his star billing on the opening day of The Showcase meeting at Cheltenham when making an impressive winning debut over fences in the 2m squareintheair.com Novices’ Chase.
Trained locally by Nigel Twitson-Davies, the six-year-old looked a picture in the paddock beforehand and was sent off the heavily backed 10/11 favourite.
The Dai Walters owned gelding warmed to the task after making a mistake at the third fence and after tracking the leaders travelling well under Sam twiston-Davies took up the running approaching the home turn.
Market rival Getaway Trump then loomed up and looked a big danger, but Al Dancer quickened clear and produced a good jump at the second last to establish a healthy lead.
He then stayed on powerfully after the last to beat the running on Not That Fuisse by a comfortable four lengths.
I thought it was a most taking display and it saw Coral cut him into 14/1 for the Arkle Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Al Dancer looks a very exciting recruit to the chasings ranks and speaking after the race winning jockey Twiston-davies said: “There was just the one taxi on the way around! Luckily, Al Dancer learnt from it and got into a nice rhythm.
“He will improve a good bit for it, which is great, and with that experience under his belt hopefully he can keep going forward.
“He has always been tough and the nice thing about him is that he will stay a little bit further, so a positive, fast-run two miles is ideal.
“It is always a bit nerve-wracking coming here first time out over fences, but he has jumped the tricky fences well and made mistakes at the slightly easier ones.”
Like Al Dancer, Not That Fuisse – who was hunted around at the back of the field under a tender ride before finishing off powerfully – looks one to keep firmly onside this season in my eyes.
Local Trainer O’Brien Secures Terrific Treble
Training honours on day one of The Showcase went to local handler Fergal O’Brien who landed a 118.4/1 treble.
The first success came in the opening 2m 5f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle courtesy of well-punted 13/8 favourite Champagne Well.
After travelling strongly and jumping well throughout under a confident Paddy Brennan, the six-year-old took the lead turning for home and held on gamely after the final flight to score by 1/2 from Irish raider Braid Blue.
It was a first success over the obstacles for Champagne Well and a delighted O’Brien, who is now based 10 miles from the track at Ravenswell Farm situated between Withington and Compton Abdale, said: “It’s happy Cheltenham, isn’t it? We are back here, proper jump racing, and we are lucky to have such a lovely horse in Champagne Well.
“We were a bit frustrated last season at Ludlow when he got disqualified, but then he ran a blinder in the EBF Final at Sandown.
“He travelled very well in the Sefton at Aintree until two out, but it was the end of a long season and he didn’t quite get home.
“Coming here today, he had been working really well and we were really confident. He was meant to run at Chepstow in the Persian War, but he got colic on the day and couldn’t run, so this was plan b.”
O’Brien’s other scorers where Petite Power ( 12/1) in the 3m 1f Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase and Benny’s Bridge (5/2 Fav) in the concluding 2m ‘Matchbook Betting Exchange Podcast’ Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Saint Calvados Secures First Cheltenham Success for Whittington
Day two of The Showcase meeting saw Wantage-based handler Harry Whittington record a first Cheltenham victory with Saint Calvados.
The six-year-old), who twice placed at Grade 1 level over fences last season, capitalised on drop in class when defying top-weight of 11st 12lb to land the 2m Randox Health Handicap Chase
Saint Calvados,, who was sent off the 5/2 favourite, collared long-time leader Knocknanuss jumping the final fence and rallied well up the run-in under a power-packed ride from Gavin Sheehan to prevail by a length over Vaniteux who was receiving just over two stone.
Whittington said: “I am so thrilled for owners Andrew and Kate Brooks, who are on holiday with George for half-term. I know how much it means to them – they are great supporters of the game and great supporters of mine.
“We knew there was plenty of pace on and plenty of trailblazers. I had a little bit of a ding-dong with Gavin beforehand because I thought he said that he was going to drop him out but he was half winding me up. As it happened, it all worked out perfectly and he gave the horse a beautiful ride. He is a huge talent and it’s great to have him on board.
“I have no idea where we will go with Saint Calvados. He obviously had a long break in the summer and had his wind done. We felt that we would take the first run in and then sit down and go through it. We will see how he comes out of the race before we start thinking ahead.”
Sheehan added: “”Harry and his team have got him here ready for the day and they have picked a brilliant race for him with lovely ground conditions. He was our stand-out horse and it is lovely for them to start off the season again with dreams.”
Nicholls Has International Mission in Mind for Quel Destin
A return to Cheltenham in December for The International meeting could be on the cards for Quel Destin after he put in an ultra-game display to defy a penalty and land the spoils in the 2m Masterson Holdings Hurdle.
The Paul Nicholls trained four-year-old, who showed a very high level of form last season when winning Chepstow’s Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle and finishing a fine 11 length fifth to Pentland Hills in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, showed the benefit of a recent flat outing with a game victory.
Shouldering an 8lb penalty for his Chepstow success, Quel Destin raced wide throughout under Harry Cobden but looked to be in trouble as 4/5 favourite Torpillo went on after the penultimate flight and seemingly had the race in the bag.
However, the son of Muhtathir would simply not be denied and rallied to hit the front soon after jumping the final flight before staying on bravely up the hill to score by 3/4 of a length from Soviet Pimpernel – with Torpillo finishing a further 1/2 a length behind.
Nicholls said: “All of our horses are just needing a bit of a run this year, which is of no harm, and Quel Destin had a lovely run on the Flat the other day at Bath. All the rain helped him and, with an 8lb penalty, it was a brilliant run.
“If he keeps progressing, he wouldn’t be unlike Rigmarole, who ended up winning The International here. We might have a look at something like that. He progressed all last season and I think he will keep progressing now. He is tough and he stays – it just shows the benefit of a run makes a huge difference to horses. “
Winning rider Cobden added: “I ran around the course beforehand and Paddy Brennan rode three winners here last November by going wide on heavy ground, so I thought that we would go our own route and try our luck.
“Quel Destin had a penalty today, so has done really well to win. We were a bit long down to two out but he puts his little head down, sticks his neck out and tries really hard.”